“An extraordinary year.” That’s how John Shmerler describes the 2017 annual campaign of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
At The Associated’s annual meeting last night, June 21, at Pikesville’s Beth Tfiloh Congregation, Shmerler, chair of the 2017 annual campaign, announced that the federation was on pace to raise $31 million for its annual campaign, which ends June 30.
Shmerler, who will be succeeded by Robb Cohen, said he was “moved by the incredible generosity of our community” to help vulnerable Jews in the Baltimore metropolitan region and abroad.
“Everyone who makes a gift or volunteers or reaches out to someone in need makes a big difference. Thank you,” he said. “We need to continue to set the bar high to make sure that the needs of the community are met.”
Linda S. Elman, chair of the 2017 Women’s Campaign, praised Shmerler for his commitment to the campaign and the mission of the Associated and its agencies and programs. The Women’s Campaign raised $5.2 million for the 2017 annual campaign.
“John really put his heart and soul into this year’s campaign, and for that we are grateful,” said Elman, who will be succeeded by Wendy Miller. “We have connected children, parents and grandparents to Jewish life. … Associated women are indeed everywhere. We’re a powerful group and committed to the care of our community today and tomorrow.”
More than 350 Associated supporters and employees attended the two-hour “A Celebration of Generosity” gathering, including such political dignitaries as Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-2nd), Del. Shelly L. Hettleman (D-11th), Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg (D-41nd), and Baltimore City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (D-5th). Representing Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) were, respectively, staffers Renee Cohen and Sue H. Kohn.
The evening was hosted by Associated Chair of the Board Linda A. Hurwitz.
In her keynote address, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh praised the Jewish community for its critical role in improving lives in the city.
“I feel like I’m home,” said Pugh, noting that she has visited Israel on two occasions. “I’ve been involved and supported by members of the Jewish community since I was elected. … We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we must do it together. Thank you for the work you do every single day on behalf of your community, the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and the rest.”
With rampant crime, a diminishing industrial base, unemployment and neglected neighborhoods, Pugh said the city needs to strengthen its tourism base and find other means to rebuild Baltimore’s infrastructure.
She cited Eager Park in East Baltimore and the University of Maryland BioPark as examples of urban areas rejuvenated by civic action and institutional investments. She said the same type of action can be replicated in Park Heights’ challenged communities, and the mayor pledged to fight to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore.
“The city faces many challenges,” Pugh said. “We need to continue to invest in our downtown community. We need a vibrant downtown and support for our neighborhoods, including Park Heights. Inside those neighborhoods are people who have invested in their homes while the developers have left. They can’t afford to go anywhere else. We can focus on those neighborhoods and attract investments.
“[Park Heights] is a part of our city that can be vibrant again and invested in.”
Noting that $14 million was raised through the private sector to provide summer jobs for Baltimore’s youth, Pugh said she is inspired by the commitment and energy devoted to rejuvenating city life, especially among millennials and baby boomers moving into Baltimore.
“What’s taking place in this city is exciting,” she said. “I still pinch myself every day when I come to work. But it is work with many challenges. We need to do better, and we will. We can get the work done.”
At the program’s conclusion, Associated President Marc B. Terrill thanked the community for its generosity and commitment. He praised Baltimore’s Jewish community as among the top tier in North America in terms of fund-raising and leadership.
“We are commanded to be generous and look beyond ourselves and make the world a better place,” Terrill said. “Baltimore Jews do generosity well – very well.
“Together, we are making daily miracles,” he said. “What distinguishes this community is the quality of leadership. It’s first-rate. Baltimoreans are known around the country for doing things with resolve and reacting to the climate of change. We make things happen. Baltimore is indeed different, and our leadership is what makes it different.”
Calling the 2017 annual campaign “a banner year” for the federation, Terrill emphasized that the figure of $31 million, while “historic,” is not what really counts. “It’s not the amount you raise but how it’s used and what it does,” he said. “We truly are doing incredible things on a daily basis.
“I hope to stand here next year and say, ‘2018 was an even better year,’” Terrill said. “Yasher koach [may you have strength] and thank you for everything you’re doing.”
Photo of Mayor Catherine E. Pugh by Stuart Zolotorow
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